There are plenty of other diversions, too: deep swimming holes, river otters, mine ruins, and wild azaleas. But the coolest perk of this four-day trek is that, at trail's end, you can hop on a raft for a rollicking three-day return trip. The Rogue River Trail starts at the Foster Bar trailhead, 35 miles east of Gold Beach (1, see map above), and snakes through the Siskiyou Mountains to the Grave Creek Bridge (26 miles northwest of Grants Pass)(2). The trail traces the shoreline and climbs precipitously above it for bird's-eye views.
The action starts fast with three waterfalls in the first seven miles (30-foot Flora Dell Creek at 5.2 miles, 50-foot Fall Creek at 5.5 miles, and 25-foot Tate Creek at 7.1 miles) (3, 4, and 5). Scramble to the top of Tate Creek Falls, where a natural slide of polished rock carries you over the lip and into the pool below. Numerous campsites allow flexible days, but the Brushy Bar Campground at mile 8.8 (6) has toilets and running water. Starting around mile 12, the trail cuts across a cliff face, up to 300 feet above the river, for two miles. At Inspiration Point (mile 14.3) (7), watch rafters tumble through the Coffeepot rapid and see Stair Creek Falls (a double-tier waterfall with a small pool in the middle). At mile 17, stop at the Rogue River Ranch National Historic Site to see excavations of 9,000-year-old Takelma Native American ruins (8). Pitch your tent on the sandbars of Quail Creek (mile 20.6) (9).
Just 1.5 miles farther, peek inside a log cabin once owned by Western writer Zane Grey (10). More swimming holes await at Kelsey Creek, mile 24.6. On night three, stay at Horseshoe Bend for the area's most spacious campsites (mile 28.9) (11). The Big Slide (mile 36.3) (12) is a perfect lunch spot–a grassy, shaded bluff. The homestretch affords a glimpse of Rainie Falls (mile 38.2) (13); rafts portage around its hairy lower section. Camp here, or power the last 1.8 miles to the trailhead. If you're rafting, pre-arrange a shuttle (with your guide) and find lodging at Galice Resort (galice.com, $75/night). Hook up with your raft crew the following day for three sweet days of class III to class 5 rapids.
Find grocery stores and outfitters in Gold Beach. Grab a short stack or a strip steak at Grant's Pancake & Omelette House, (541) 247-7208.
Pack swimsuit, sandals, waterproof sunscreen, Tecnu scrub (for poison oak), and bear-bagging rope. Stow it all in a waterproof pack (try Arc'Teryx's Naos 55, arcteryx.com). Or use Sea To Summit's Ultrasil Pack Liner (seatosummit.com). The raft company provides PFD, helmet, and splash gear.
To trek point-to-point and skip the rafting return, park a car at the Grave Creek trailhead (or arrange a shuttle with Rogue Wilderness Adventures or Galice Resort). Three miles north of the town of Grants Pass, take the I-5 exit onto Merlin-Galice Road for 23 miles to the Grave Creek Bridge.
May, June, and September have the best weather and least bugs.
Maps USGS quads: Agness, Marial, and Galice ($6; store.usgs.gov) Permits (503) 808-6002
Contact Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, (541) 858-2200, fs.fed.us/r6/rogue-siskiyou/
From Gold Beach, take CR 595 10 miles west to FS 33. Continue 21 miles to CR 375. Turn north go 5.4 miles to the Foster Bar trailhead.